Thursday, May 30, 2013

Worst Haredi Hasbara of the Day (30.05.13)

This is a sign allegedly hung up in Me'ah Shearim neighborhood of  Jerusalem. It warns the army that for every Haredi imprisoned for refusing to serve in the army (and for every day he is held), a secret group called "the underground against Haredi Enlistment" will "whip" a soldier 18 lashes.

This is clearly a fringe group of nutcases (or a single bored kid), and not representative of Haredi society at large.

Hat Tip: @bneibraki

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Worst "Women of the Wall" Hasbara of the Day

From Kikar Hashabat:

Anat Hoffman: "Every group brought to Israel their own [cultural] import. The Moroccans brought the Maimuna, and Americans brought equality"

We've Reached a New Low

In an interview on Galei Yisrael,  Rav Elyakim Levanon claimed that Rav Stav threatened a senior rabbi that he'll "open the files" on him. Rav Levanon doesn't explain who that rabbi is, but gave his opinion that Rav Stav must now withdraw from the Chief Rabbi race.

I've personally had it with the Hardalnick rabbis. One can't understand how they think that after  weeks of them insulting, bullying and threatening Rav Stav.he is not even allowed to hint that some of them have in their past some skeletons? So far those who have been acting like little children, ruffians and yahoos have been those supporting Rav Ariel.

However, I've actually had it with this whole issue. I have been convinced that the worst thing that could happen to the Religious Zionist community would be the election of a Religious Zionist rabbi. We should all pray to God and Shas to save us from ourselves.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

World's Oldest Torah Scroll Found?

From the BBC:

The University of Bologna in Italy has found what it says may be the oldest complete scroll of Judaism's most important text, the Torah.
The scroll was in the university library but had been mislabelled, a professor at the university says.
It was previously thought the scroll was no more that a few hundred years old.
However, after carbon dating tests, the university has said the text may have been written more than 850 years ago.
The university's Professor of Hebrew Mauro Perani says this would make it the oldest complete text of the Torah known to exist, and an object of extraordinary worth.
The university says that in 1889 one of its librarians, Leonello Modona, had examined the scroll and dated it to the 17th Century.
However, when Mr Perani recently re-examined the scroll, he realised the script used was that of the oriental Babylonian tradition, meaning that the scroll must be extremely old.
Another reason for the dating is that the text has many features forbidden in later copies under rules laid down by the scholar Maimonides in the 12th Century, the university says.

Correction of the Day

From the New York Times:

An earlier version of this article misidentified the "Sesame Street" character with whom Ryan C. Crocker, the former United States ambassador, was photographed in Kabul. It was Grover, not Cookie Monster.

Is Shorter Hesder Service Morally Defensible?

One of those bizarre ironies that are the hallmarks of Israeli politics, is that it appears that in the future Haredim (minus 1800 prodigies) will serve two full years of army service, while the "Zionist" Hesder boys will serve only 17 months. I'm a former Hesder boy myself, but I've never managed to fully justify the Hesder position. The current debate is therefore of special interest to me.

Here are some of the arguments people are making to explain why Hesder remains a valid idea:

  • Rav Haim Navon -  Argues that the entire Hesder program, together with the "Yeshivot Gevehot" is less than the 1800 or so Haredi "prodigies" who would receive a full exemption from army service. As such the Hesder boys are the Dati Leumi prodigies - who still do a long meaningful service. However, the differnce is that the Dati Leumi public sees army service as a virtue, while the Haredim see it as a forced conscription. The 1800 or so "prodigy" program does not reflect a general acceptance to waiver army service for the benefit of Torah - its only signifies a political necessity. Harav Navon's answer failst to explain why Israelis at large should agree to compromise with the Dati Leumi public. 
  • Rav Tzair - normally I'm a big fan of the erudite Rav Tzair, but in this case his argument seems ridiculous. His basic argument is that Hesder comes at a cost. People who join the program forego the option of serving in elite units, and end up in the standard infantry and armor divisions. All of this is true. However, is the public really so anxious to serve in elite units that its willing to forego over a year's service from Hesder boys just so they won't compete in those units? I'm not even doubtful. Firstly there is is a certain amount of elitist thinking underlining his argument. Are really all Hesder boys such a great catch? are they all destined otherwise to serve in elite units? honestly - I studied in the Gush - probably the most elitist of Hesder Yeshivot. Many of us were fairly smart kids, and would probably have made it into good Jobnick roles. But physically? sheesh, average Yesivah boy with his thick glasses, is lucky to make it into Infantry. Secondly... Isn't it possible to argue the exact opposite? the army looses some high quality minds to the hesder program. Perhaps the army would prefer to have those young hesder geeks, instead of loosing them?
  • Yeshivot Ha'hesder - Argues that Hesder soldiers continue to be available to the army l during their time in the Yeshivah. Hesder boys are the first to be called up in times of national emergency or when the army suddenly needs a large reserve. This is actually quite a common argument, one that is factually true, but mostly irrelevant. Firstly it is extremely rare for the army to actually call up the Hesder talmidim outside of their regular army service. Offhand I have no statistics but I'm willing to bet you could count the instances in the last decade on one hand. Secondly - surely actually having all the Hesder boys serve all the time would be a greater contribution to the army then a short call up?
  • Better Miluim Attendance Rates - a common argument is that Hesder is worth it to the army because Hesder boys have a great attendance rate for Miluim. In other words, Hesder boys really end up serving a longer service if we look at a 20 year span and not a 3 year span. I've no idea if statistically the argument is true or not. However, just one question - if you didn't have a shorter service, would the same Hesder boys not show up to miluim? Do hesder boys show up more than students of Mechinot?
Some of these arguments were slightly more convincing when we were favorably compared to the Haredi community. However, now that the equality of burden is likely to become the norm, our arguments are somewhat hollow. It is time for us to think again about the Hesder Program. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Worst Haredi Hasbara Of The Day

From Kikar Hashabat:

MK Gafni: If You Harm the Torah, Missiles Will Fall on Tel-Aviv

MK Gaffni elaborated that if you harm the Yeshivot not only will missiles fall on Tel Aviv but also Israel's credit rating will plummet. 

Do We Deserve A Zionist Chief Rabbi?

In one word: NO. 

לא חרב החלום לרב ראשי ציוני, אלא בשל שנאת חינם

Following the results of the last election, there was a brief period of time where the Dati Leumi public imagined that we were both united, and accepted by the wider Israeli society. For the first time in decades there was a dream that the Dati-Leumi movement could again appoint a zionist chief rabbi. However, we have managed to destroy any such dream through an orgy of self hate and mudslinging. The sad truth is that we no longer deserve to have a Zionist Chief Rabbi. 

Waiting for Rav Druckman to Publicly Endorse Rav Stav

No this isn't a comedy routine. One would hope that after the Amar-Ariel deal has finally become irrelevant, and after he has managed to tear the Dati-Leumi community apart, Rav Druckman would do the only thing that can really save the chance for a Zionist Chief Rabbi.

Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Coca Cola The Hareidi Version..

It would be funnier if the boys names were more Hareidi, but you get the joke..

via RavTzair (on facebook)

Friday, May 24, 2013

WAZE - Successful Because Israel Has The World's Worst Drivers?

From The Atlantic:

But even with all those people using the service, it kind of feels like Waze came out of nowhere, doesn't it?
That might because the New York and San Francisco tech press uses it a lot less. Seriously: What Instagram was to brunch for the tech set, and what Tumblr was to their personal blogs of meaninglessness, what is Waze? At its best, Waze is a driver's mapping tool, especially popular in areas notable for their terrible drivers. Namely: Israel, a country known for the world's worstdrivers. (During my first 30 minutes in the country earlier this month, my driver ran into a guy on his scooter.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why Russia is Fuming..

“We have agreed with Elmar Mammadyarov that…we will discuss joint measures to ensure that this outrageous action will not go unanswered,” Lavrov added.

Lavarov and Mammadyarov are Russia's and Azerbaijan's  respective foreign ministers. So what was the event that so outraged Russia, and "will not go unanswered"? Human rights? Oil? Terror? erm..

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the disappearance of votes awarded by Azerbaijan to Russian singer Dina Garipova at the recent Eurovision Song Contest as “an outrageous action,” and vowed on Tuesday that Russia would respond to the incident. (source)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Complex Question Of Feminism and "True Motivation"

Over Shavuot a small shul in Efrat made the headlines when Rav Riskin allowed the women to read Megillat Ruth for the men. Not having studied the issue myself, I have no strong view on the matter. However, in an email group of which I'm a member, someone posted the following argument - the discussion at this point moved to whether little girls can sing Anim Zmirot or not - which I translated below:

[T]he problem with girls singing Anim Zmirot is that "my heart tells me" that this isn't right, because it harms "Kedushat Yisrael". Exactly as your heart tells you that there is no problem. There are no proofs for what is the "spirit of  torah," if there was - it wouldn't be the spirit of Torah but halacha. There are many different opinions of Gedolei Yisrael in the past and in the present what is considered modest (צנוע), and when anyone who adds to the standard is only lessening Tzniut and when whoever adds will be blessed. You can cite examples to here and to here how to act, without ever proving the point. I have no problem that girls should sing Anim Zmirot as long as the person who enacts it is first class Gadol, who you can count on that his senses that this isn't against God's will (Spirit of torah)...
One more point. I don't want to address the issue of modesty directly, but I'm sure you'll understand - there is a saying that only the left can go to war, and only the right can remove settlements. The left is not suspect of a messianic motivation for war, and the right is not suspect of a spiritual disconnect from Eretz Yisrael or ignoring security needs.
Lowering the standards separating boys and girls is not convincing in my opinion when it comes from certain people, of which a small minority have real problems in their daily manners (again I'm not thinking of anyone specific only generally and a small minority!). Some of them too easily stretch the boundary and even pass adopting a tolerant non thinking attitude to the relationship between the sexes, clothing and other similar concerns. Equally, and in the opposite direction, I am not excited when someone who always Machmirs in Kashrut publishes a new chumra. However, when a Chumra comes from someone who always tries to be lenient  and despite that publishes a chumra - his opinion carries more weight...  
I tried to keep the flowing style of writing in the translation, however I'm not sure I succeeded. The writer is probably best characterized as a very open Hardalnick, and as the paragraph shows he's very sensitive not to offend anyone.  I liked both parts of his argument. The first part of his argument is merely a reflection of how he feels. He has a feeling girls should not be singing in a shul, but he does not ascribe it to halacha - just his gut feeling of what is proper. You can't argue with someone's gut.
The second argument is one I fully agree with - but not the conclusion. Like it or not, some people's motivation is slightly suspect. Many of us often have a feeling that some arguments with some strongly feminist members of the tribes are not really about spiritual fulfillment, but more about feminist ideology. It is very hard to know how to react to those situations. Should you dismiss their arguments only because YOU feel that their motivation is not "leshem Shamayim?" Can both motivations (feminist + Spiritual) exist at once? Do the two contradict? Is equality itself a spiritual motivation? Should you ever allow yourself to presume to know better than someone else what their "true" motivation is? I've never found any easy answers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Taking Off Your Skullcap is a Sign of a Religious Renaissance

From the Economist describing the Karaite renaissance that is apparently underway:

Threatened by a two-pronged assault of assimilation and intolerance, Karaites have begun building up their own defences. Though they have no yeshivas, or religious academies, they have begun studying at home. Elders have sloughed off their skullcaps and stopped lighting candles on Friday nights, in line with a biblical injunction against burning flames on the Sabbath. 

Worst Hasbara of the Day Award 20.05.2013

Today's award goes to the Chief Rabbinate spokesman:

“Israel is a Jewish state and Jews have superior rights,” says the chief rabbinate’s spokesman.

I cut that in mid-sentence  Its not because the end of the sentence makes the first half any better, but only because the ending is somewhat surprising:

“But the Karaites are not Jewish.” 

I'm not going to argue whether the Karaites are Jewish or not. However, what kind of imbicile would ever say to an international paper (the Economist no less) that Jews have superior rights? This Worst Hasbara of the Day Award is well deserved.

A Classic "Fuad" Story

Not sure why I suddenly remembered this story today:

There's a story that Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer likes to tell, and he tells it with no little charm: how, in the 1970s, he happened to be in the Far East when terrorists attacked the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok, how he rushed over to the site and how the prime minister, Golda Meir, picked up the phone and asked who was speaking and he replied, "Fuad," and Golda was appalled because she thought that the Arabs had taken over the embassy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weird Look Into Haredi Ideal Family

My wife bought this puzzle for our four year old daughter. I love how the Haredi Mother still has the broom in one hand as she is "spoiled" by her children. And what is wrong with that plant?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Scratching My Head

This headline has me scratching my head (translated):

Harav Eliyahu: The Emmanuel Rozen Story Proves Women Shouldn't Serve In The IDF
What exactly is the logic here? Harav Eliyahu's basic argument is that sexual harassment is endemic in society, and as such we shouldn't be allowing women to serve together with men. Fair enough. However the same logic can only really lead to a completely segregated society - something that is non existent even in the Haredi community. Moreover, considering by the amount of sexual scandals that we keep hearing about in Haredi communities, it would seem that the same logic would demand that we all send our female daughters to live their lives in closed nunneries, preferably somewhere in Siberia.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Not From The Onion: Venezuela Minister Blames Toilet Paper Shortage on Media

First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities – toilet paper....

President Nicolás Maduro, who was selected by the dying Hugo Chávez to carry on his "Bolivarian revolution", claims that anti-government forces, including the private sector, are causing the shortages in an effort to destabilise the country.
The government this week announced it also would import 760,000 tonnes of food in addition to the 50m rolls of toilet paper.
Commerce minister Alejandro Fleming blamed the shortage of toilet tissue on "excessive demand" built up as a result of "a media campaign that has been generated to disrupt the country".

I hate it when the media uses its powers to generate an excessive demand for toilet paper. Good luck Venezuela.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things You Don't Need A PhD to Know

 Last week it was reported that  two UNRWA reps posed in front of a map where "Israel" was replaced with "Palestine". As someone who is a current Ph.D candidate, I was somewhat amused by this comment by Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor:

"It doesn't take a PhD in Middle Eastern history or geography to know that a map of the Middle East that doesn't include Israel is deeply and profoundly prejudiced".

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Avoiding a Schism In Religious Zionist Community

Harav Elyakim Levanon, one of the better known Hardalnick rabbis sent a letter last night to the members of the Jewish Home, urging them to support Harav Ariel's candidacy to the position of Chief Rabbi in order to prevent a schism in the Religious Zionist community. As most people know, Religious Zionism is going through a phase where there are two prominent camps - the more open liberal camp, and the more closed Hardalnick camp - Hardal being a slightly derogatory term meaning חרדי דתי לאומי.

There are two points that should be clarified:

1. The Hardal camp needs to stop threatening with a schism whenever they loose a fight. If they are the minority in RZ (which I think, but can't prove that they are) they need to accept it and stop being so threatening.

2. It takes quite a bit of twisted logic to understand how Harav Ariel will prevent a schism. Harav Ariel is not really a compromise between the two camps. Admittedly, Harav Ariel was probably not the first choice of the Hardalnick side of the RZ map. They probably would have preferred Harav Igra, or Harav Shapira.  However Harav Ariel was not a compromise between the two camps. Harav Druckman decided (for everyone) unilaterally to push Harav Ariel's candidacy and make a political deal with Shas. While Harav Ariel is a better, more moderate candidate than other Hardalnick approved alternatives a compromise is not done unilaterally. From the Liberal RZ side, the election of Harav Ariel will be seen as a failure.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New York Time's Gets a Lesson In Kosher

The New York Times reported the following story of an unusual type of pig:

What’s new at the Queens Zoo these days is three female mulefoot hogs.
The mulefoot, a domestic hog named for its unusual non-cloven hoof, is black, beautiful and classified as “critically rare” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
A century ago, according to the conservancy, the mulefoot was widely bred in the Midwest “for ease of fattening and production of meat, lard and especially hams.” But it is no longer commonly bred by farmers, the zoo said.
The ladies, still unnamed, are a year old and can be visited on the zoo’s farm.
It was not immediately clear whether the meat of hogs with uncloven hooves was considered kosher.

That last sentence caused the New York Times to publish the following correction:

Update, 4:26 p.m. | City Room, based on its extremely poor religious training, made the mistake above of wondering aloud whether meat from a pig with an uncloven hoof would still be considered nonkosher.
Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operating officer of the kashrut division of the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certification organization in the world, quickly set us straight.
“Actually this pig is even worse than all other pigs,” he said. “Not only does it not chew its cud, it doesn’t have a split hoof.”
Split hoof = kosher. Unsplit = nonkosher. The thing that makes pigs nonkosher is that they don’t chew their cud. We will remember this. Thanks, Rabbi.
We will remember this too. Thanks, Rabbi. 

Via @Yair_Rosenberg

Some Short Thoughts On why the The Ariel-Amar Deal Won't Happen

Makor Rishon dedicated their weekend edition to coverage of the Chief Rabbi race (Israel). Much of the discussion was an analysis of whether the Amar-Ariel deal will actually occur. Just to remined everyone, the deal is supposed to be that the Jewish Home will use their power in government to pass a law allowing Sephradic  Chief Rabbi Amar to serve a second term. In return Shas is meant to endorse rabbi Ariel as the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi. The assumption being that Shas is still the strongest actor in the voting body that will elect the next Chief Rabbi. There is one other catch. The Jewish Home will need to change the law for Harav Ariel too - as he is currently older than the maximum age set in the law.

Here are some quick insights I gained, all explaining why the deal is unlikely to occur:

1. The deal has a built in flaw. Shas will get what they want immediately with the passing of the law allowing Rav Amar to run again. The Jewish Home will however have to wait a few months before the elections take place. During those months, Shas could withdraw their support for any reason.

2. Second internal flaw - The vote for Chief Rabbi is secret. Shas can't promise that its people will vote how they are told. Additionally, those voting may "read between the lines" and vote for a candidate Shas really want. In short, Shas can't guarantee other people will fulfill their will.

3. There is some doubt whether Shas really wants Rav Amar to be Chief Rabbi a second time. A lot of people think that Harav Ovadia really wants his son to have the position.

4. The deal was made with Eli Yishai - who is now no longer the head of Shas. Aryeh Deri is considered less trustworthy making it harder for the Jewish Home to trust him to deliver (see points 1+2).

5. The Jewish Home still can't get its act together and decide who they want for the job. Harav Stav is still considered the liberal choice.

6. Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatenuah all endorse Stav. Yesh Atid itself is enough to block any changes in the law.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Memory of Professor Geza Vermes 1924-2013

Guest Post

Professor Geza Vermes, 1924 - 2013

One of the most unusual figures in academic Jewish life, Professor Geza Vermes, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford, passed away on May 8, aged 88.

Others will memorialize in detail his very considerable academic achievements.  His personal history was remarkable.  Vermes was born into an assimilated Hungarian Jewish family, who converted to Catholicism when he was a child.  He was able to survive the war in Catholic seminaries, although both of his parents perished in Auschwitz.  He was ordained as a Catholic priest, and after the war, at the University of Louvain, became the Church's expert on the newly-discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. (The first editions of his works on the DSS bore the Catholic imprimatur!).  However, his academic work lead him to personally reassess his Catholic faith, and he moved to the UK, as a lecturer at Newcastle University, where for a time he was a member of a small Protestant church.  At some point he left Christianity - but not Jesus - altogether, and, rather gingerly, identified as a Liberal Jew, although he rarely, if ever, identified with any Jewish community.  In 1965 he was appointed to Oxford University, becoming Reader in Jewish Studies in the early 1970's (the successor to Cecil Roth) and then the first full Professor - appointments that scandalised the Anglo-Jewish 'Establishment'.  

He had two academic passions - the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish background of Jesus and early Christianity. Vermes was a meticulous scholar with a profound knowledge of inter-testamental Jewish literature, Midrash and rabbinic writings.  He knew Talmud thoroughly, but in a totally academic fashion.  He was personally responsible for forcing a revision of conventional Christology through his widely-read book, 'Jesus the Jew', and his subsequent works, where he portrayed Jesus as a sort of Galilean 'maggid' in a circle of charismatic rabbis including Honi haMa'agal and others.  He showed the rabbinic and midrashic origins and techniques of the teachings of Jesus as preserved in the Gospels, and, although never promoting any religious agenda (what exactly did he believe?), championed Jesus as a revolutionary and profound ethical teacher.  In a diffferent field, he did enormous work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including translation of the complete corpus.  Under his influence, 'Jewish Studies' at Oxford (and in the UK generally) became identified with what he termed the 'Intertestamental period'.  He raised a generation of academic disciples.

As a graduate student in the early 1970's, sitting in his seminars on Pirkei Avot at the Oriental Institute in Oxford was a remarkable experience.  In a soft, hissing Hungarian-accented English, he minutely analysed every personality and  every saying in its historical, religious and political context.  He was totally immersed in the world of the Rabbis, even as he was the most unrabbinical figure one could imagine.  Until very late in life, he was extremely reticent about his personal life, and about his personal identity.  About the only time I ever heard him allude to his rather bizarre life journey was once when he recalled his Newcastle days, going to the Yeshivah bookshop in Gateshead ('Lehmann's') to find some obsecure Midrashic texts, giggling as he described the reactions of 'the Yeshivah bochurs' to this 'strange apparition'.  His first wife, Pamela, who passed away in 1993, wrote on Martin Buber.  They lived outside Oxford, where they had pet Alsatians - who at one point 'adopted' and suckled some kittens.  The symbolism was not lost on him.

Vermes was a gentleman, unfailingly courteous to all (although he did not mince words in his academic judgements).  He was a scholar who was very independent and very original, but whose every word was carefully substantiated in deep textual proof.   It is perplexing to speculate where, and in whose company, he will take his seat in heaven!

Paul Shaviv

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Legend Of Jerusalem From The 12 Century

In honor of Yom Yerushalim, I thought to share this story from the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela. It is commonly thought that BoT started his travels in the year 1160:

Jerusalem is surrounded by high mountains. On Mount Sion are the sepulchers of the house of David, and those of the kings who reigned after him. In consequence of the following circumstance, however, this place is at present hardly to be recognized. Fifteen years ago, one of the walls of the place of worship on Mount Sion fell down, and the patriarch commanded the priest to repair it. He ordered stones to be taken from the original wall of Sion for that purpose, and twenty workmen were hired at stated wages, who broke stones from the very foundation of the walls of Sion. Two of these laborers, who were intimate friends, upon a certain day treated one another, and repaired to their work after their friendly meal. The overseer accused them of dilatoriness, but they answered that they would still perform their day's work, and would employ thereupon the time while their fellow laborers were at meals. They then continued to break out stones, until, happening to meet with one which formed the mouth of a cavern, they agreed to enter it in search of treasure, and they proceeded until they reached a large hall, supported by pillars of marble, encrusted with gold and silver, and before which stood a table, with a golden scepter and crown. This was the sepulcher of David, King of Israel, to the left of which they saw that of Solomon in a similar state, and so on the sepulchers of all the kings of Juda, who were buried there. They further saw chests locked up, the contents of which nobody knew, and were on the point of entering the hall, when a blast of wind like a storm issued forth from the mouth of the cavern so strong that it threw them down almost lifeless on the ground. There they lay until evening, when another wind rushed forth, from which they heard a voice like that of a man calling aloud, "Get up, and go forth from this place." The men rushed out full of fear, and proceeded to the patriarch to report what had happened
p. 394
to them. This ecclesiastic summoned into his presence R. Abraham el Constantini, a pious ascetic, one of the mourners of the downfall of Jerusalem, 14 and caused the two laborers to repeat what they had previously reported. R. Abraham thereupon informed the patriarch that they had discovered the sepulchers of the house of David and of the kings of Juda. The following morning the laborers were sent for again, but they were found stretched on their beds and still full of fear; they declared that they would not attempt to go again to the cave, as it was not God's will to discover it to any one. The patriarch ordered the place to be walled up, so as to hide it effectually from every one unto the present day. The above-mentioned R. Abraham told me all this.
Miracles are fairly rare in Benjamin of Tudela's diary. Joshua Prawer estimates that Benjamin of Tudela visited Jerusalem roughly in 1169-1171. If so the story of the workers should have occured sometime in 1154-1156. Prawer can not find any mention of an event on Mount Zion during those years, except for a lightning bolt hitting a church in 1146 (10 years too early). R. Abraham el Constatini is almost certainly the same as mentioned in the travels of Rabbi Petachia of Ratisbon, and is probably a member of Chasidei Ashkenaz.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Good Way To Describe The Bible?

A Commonplace Blog:

In my classes on the Bible as literature, in fact, I like to tell my students that the book might be more accurately called The Norton Anthology of Ancient Hebrew Literature. It is, in any event, a library—and no singular term, certainly not “1,000-page morality tale,” can adequately describe it. It contains tales, yes; but also historical chronicles, genealogies, songs and poems, legal codes, sermons, political tracts and propaganda, prayers, elegies, allegories, dream visions and apocalyptic visions, and proverbs and other wisdom literature. The only true “morality tale” is the book of Job, which belongs to that last genre.

 I liked the description. A shame the rest of his post is so terribly unconvincing.

Worst Hasbara of the Day Award

Its been awhile since I gave out a worst hasbara of the day award. However, today I have the pleasure of giving it to a major player in Hasbara - CAMERA. CAMERA is a major media watch dog, that points out innaccurate and distorted accounts of events in Israel and the Middle East.

Here is one of their corrections from today:

First, we'll begin with the new material. On Friday, May 3, AFP published the following photographs and captions misidentifying Israeli stone-throwers as Palestinian:

DEIR JARIR : Palestinians, whose faces are covered, prepare to throw stones during clashes with Israeli security forces and settlers from the nearby settlement of Ofra following a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel on May 3, 2013 in the West Bank village of Deir Jarir, northeast of Ramallah . AFP PHOTO/ ABBAS MOMANI

 The three men pictured in the top photograph, who also appear in the background of the second photograph, are Israeli stone-throwers, not Palestinian. Their ritual fringes ("tzitzit") are clearly visible in the first photograph.

I searched the CAMERA article low and high to see if there was some reason why anyone should care if these were Israeli or Palestinians throwing rocks. However, it seems that CAMERA was motivated solely by their love of the truth. Thank you CAMERA! I'm sure that your donors are happy to know that Israeli Yahoos will now get credit for their life threatening rock slinging.

On a serious note - I can only assume that CAMERA is doing this so that they can claim that they are neutral, and truly only interested in correct news coverage.

- Update:

I respect CAMERA for their integrity, and going out of their way to correct stories even when they are potentially damaging for Israel. They do however get to keep the award.

Rav Lior Is Slightly Ridiculous

According to this piece in NRG, Harav Dov Lior is furious that Jewish Home leader Bennet doesn't listen to him. Yesterday the Jewish Home decided to back a proposed law that would expand the  150-member body that elects the two chief rabbis to include more women and public representatives. The law is seen as an attempt to increase the chance of Harav David Stav - the more liberal candidate for Chief Rabbi.  

Why is Harav Dov Lior's anger so ridiculous? lets look at some pre-election headlines:

Harav Dov Lior  Doesn't Support the Jewish Home, Supports Otzma L'yisrael

Oh? so if Bennett had actually listened to Dov Lior, he would have voted for a party that didn't pass the election threshold.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Translation of the Day

I'd love an involved in a pita, thanks!

Hat Tip: @mark_leibowitz

Cartoon of The Day - Arab Solidarity

Not sure when this cartoon is from, but it must be at least 20 years old..

From "Angry Arab" blog:

Arabs have unearthed this old cartoon by famed Palestinian artists, Naji Al-`Ali (killed by Yasir `Arafat).  The headline says: "Arab solidarity".  The man with the papers says: "If Israel were to attack Syria, we should attack."   The other men say: "Clarify.  Attack whom?"

Best Soap Review Ever.

This is possibly the best review I've ever read for any product. From Amazon -

Someone once asked me if I had ever tried Axe body-wash. I put down the five pound turkey leg I had been gnawing on, looked them dead in the eye and said, "Once. Then I put it in a canoe that I hollowed out of a giant redwood with my fingernails and sent it down the river... which is a better service than it deserved." I am a man, and I don't want any liquid soap that leaves you with some nondescript "sexy" smell. When I wash myself in anything that is not the blood of my enemies, I use pine tar soap. I want an emollient that will cut through all of the dirt, sweat, blood, pitch, grease, or more blood that I might find myself covered in at any moment, and I want it to leave me smelling like a camp fire. This is not a dual action body scrub and moisturizer that pairs well with your passion fruit shampoo. This is a man's soap that smells the way my beard, boots, and red flannel shirt look... magnificent.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Insulting Haredi Poster

I'm not even going to attempt to translate this. Needless to say חרדקים is about as insulting as ערבושים.

This Is What Living In A Dictatorship Is Really Like

From the Moscow Times:

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov fell off his horse just after he crossed the finish line in first place in Ashgabat this week — and then tried to cover up the tumble by forcing spectators to delete all evidence of the incident.
Berdymukhammedov won the $11 million purse when the horse he was riding won by about a length and half at the racetrack — a fact trumpeted by the former Soviet republic's tightly controlled media.
But the leaked video footage shows that the horse then stumbled and Berdymukhammedov flew over its shoulders. The other horses barely missed trampling the motionless president. A group of men in black suits swarmed onto the track and, after a few moments, an ambulance pulled up and whisked away the apparently unconscious Berdymukhammedov.
About an hour later, a stiff-looking Berdymukhammedov returned to the event and waved to the cheering crowd, indicating that he was well.
During the hourlong interval, Berdymukhammedov's security detail went through the crowd, which included members of top international equestrian clubs invited to attend the event on an all-expenses-paid junket, and forced them to delete videos and photos of the incident, reported.
 Law enforcement officials also searched passengers flying out of the Ashgabat airport, seizing mobile phones, tablet computers, laptops, cameras and any other devices that could be used to record the fall, Fergana news agency reported. 

Cartoon of the Day

"Looking Good, And Staying Holy" But Sounding like an Idiot.

From the New York Post:

An Orthodox Jewish woman is suing makeup giant Lancome, claiming that its “24-hour” foundation doesn’t really last that long — and so doesn’t stay on long enough to get her through the Sabbath.
Rorie Weisberg of upstate Monsey says the French luxury-cosmetics maker committed the sin of false advertising when it claimed that its new Teint Idole Ultra 24H provides a full day and night of “lasting perfection.”
 Because of the product’s failure, she says, she can’t look good and stay holy at the same time. 

No offense, I think you have bigger problems than just looking good and staying holy.

HatTip: Miriam.

The Monty Hall Problem

I've been trying to explain this to people for years:

Updates on the Israeli Chief Rabbi Race

  • Harav Ariel claims he is "too old" to become the Chief Rabbi, as well as voicing his objection to "personal laws" - i.e laws that are meant to benefit a single individual. 
  • Despite such claims, Harav Druckman continues to work to make Harav Ariel the Jewish Home's candidate.  Shai Piron announces that the Chief Rabbi will not be chosen as part of "a political deal", and renews Yesh Atid's support of Harav Stav. 
  • Rabbis from Tekuma - part of the Jewish Home party, warn Bennett not to agree to change the composition of the electorate body that will choose the Chief Rabbi. Their reasoning is that changing the body will lower the public perception of the Chief Rabbinate. (As if it could go any lower). 
  • The Jewish Home threatens Shas that if it won't agree to the nomination of Harav Ariel (who is apparently not too old) they will nominate a contender for Sephradic Chief Rabbi - Harav Haim Amsalem.  
As always Israeli politics is the best show in town. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Killing The Executioner By Error

From the Washington Post:

MOGADISHU, Somalia — An official in a semi autonomous region of Somalia says the government has executed 13 prisoners, including a woman.
Abdifatah Haji Aden, Puntland’s military court chairman, said the prisoners were executed by firing squad on the outskirts of Bossaso, Puntland’s commercial hub, on Tuesday. Aden said one soldier who helped carry out the execution died after being struck by an errant bullet fired by a colleague.

The Jewish Autonomy In Jerusalem 614 CE

I was somewhat surprised to learn in Elder Of Ziyon of a little known Jewish autonomy over Jerusalem in the  years 614-617 CE. This would make it the last Jewish autonomy over Jerusalem, before the modern State of Isreal.

In "A History of the Jewish People" by Haim Hillel be-Sasson, we learn:
In the last days of Byzantine rule over the Land of Israel the Jews made an attempt to exploit the rivalry between the powers ruling the orient - Persia, Byzantium and Rome - in order to regain their political independence. For hundreds of years they had repeatedly hoped that the redemption of the Jewish people would come with the conquest of Palestine by Persia; and now the time seemed to have arrived. At the beginning of the seventh century, the Persians set out on their conquests in the East, and in the year 614 they reached the borders of Palestine. Their approach set off a powerful messianic fermentation, which is reflected in several works written at the time whose theme is the Redemption. The Armenian historian Sebeos reported (Chapter XXIV): 'As the Persians approached Palestine, the remnants of the Jewish nation rose against the Christians, joined the Persians and made common cause with them.' The Jews assisted the invaders materially in their conquest of Galilee. From there the invading army turned to Caesarea and continued its conquests down to Apollonia, then eastwards to Lydda and from there to Jerusalem, which was captured in May 614. Jewish forces also took part in the conquest of Jerusalem. Sophronius, a contemporary monk who lived near Bethlehem, wrote in a poem: 'God-seeking strangers and citizens of the city [Jerusalem]; . When they faced the Persians and their Hebrew friends/Hastened to close the city gates.' 
The Persians handed Jerusalem over to Jewish settlers, who proceeded with the expulsion of the Christians and the removal of their churches. At the head of Jerusalem stood a leader whom we know only by his messianic name: Nehemiah ben Hushiel ben Ephraim ben Joseph. The sacrificial cult may even have been resumed. Jewish rule in Jerusalem lasted three years. In 617 there was a reversal of Persian policy. For reasons that are not sufficiently clear, the Persians made peace with the Christians. The Jews, on the other hand, did not, and the Persian authorities were forced to fight them: 'And they waged war against the saints and brought down many of them. and Shiroi [the king of Persia] stabbed Nehemiah ben Hushiel. and sixteen of the just were killed together with him (Book of Zerubabel, page 101).
Most of what we know of Nehemiah ben Hushiel is from the apocalyptic book of Zerubbel. Zerubbel  describes the eschatological struggle between the Armilus, who is the leader of Rome, and the Messiah ben Yosef - Nehemiah. Nehemiah falls in battle (which is actually the defining charecterisitc of all Messiah Ben Yosef), but will be resurrected by Hephisibah the mother of the Messiah. (exciting stuff!)